Sunday, March 27, 2011

Baltimore County Unable to Answer Questions About Camera Testing

We previously reported that the speed cameras used in Baltimore County do not meet a requirement under state law that they be certified by an "independent Calibration Laboratory", but were instead only certified by the manufacturer, who has an obvious vested interest in declaring the cameras to be flawless.  We sent a letter of inquiry to Baltimore County Police, who were either unwilling or unable to answer most of those questions.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Are You Fighting a Scamera Ticket? Help Us Help You!

We need to hear from people who are fighting or have recently fought speed camera tickets in court.  Many ticket recipients have been denied their right to due process at District Court hearings, and we need your help to challenge this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hyattsville Council Approves Speed Camera Program

Hyattsville will be the next Prince George's County city to start a speed camera program, after the city council voted to approve speed cameras  and to turn most of the city onto a school zone on March 7.

Friday, March 18, 2011

ACS Created Astroturf Site To Promote Howard County Scameras

It was previously exposed by Patch.com that a marketing firm hired by speed camera contractor ACS State and Local Solutions created a phony "grass Roots" campaign (a practice commonly called  "Astroturfing") to promote the expansion of Baltimore County's speed camera program.  That effort ultimately proved successful when the county voted to expand the program and renew ACS's profitable contract without a competitive bid.  It turns out that ACS has been conducting a similar artificial-turf effort in Howard County for some time.

The Inside Charm City blog discovered a FaceBook page in February,shortly after the Baltimore County site was exposed, which was similar to the one created in Baltimore County maintained by the CEO of KO Public Affairs.  The story in Inside Charm City stated that the "Slow Down For Howard County Schools" FaceBook page had "no name, no email address, no website, or no other contact information listed."

ICC Tolling System Forshadows Tracking of Drivers, Average Speed Cameras

WBAL did an interesting story on the new Inter County Connector (ICC).  The ICC is a cashless toll road, the first such road in the state.  Drivers on the road must either have an EZPASS (for which Maryland Charges a monthly fee), or else the system uses automated license plate recognition(ALPR) to record the passing vehicle's plate at their entry and exit points and mail the vehicle owners a bill in the mail for the toll plus a $3 service charge.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Baltimore County Cameras May Not Meet Certification Requirement

We previously reported that a certain type of speed camera used by the State of Maryland’s ‘SafeZones’ program may not meet a requirement that the be certified by an independent lab.  It turns out that another type of camera used by Baltimore County may run afoul of the same restriction, since the device’s annual calibration certificates are issued by the manufacturer rather than by an independent calibration lab.
State law regarding speed cameras says the following
"(4)    (i)   A speed monitoring system shall undergo an annual calibration check performed by an independent calibration laboratory.
(ii)   The independent calibration laboratory shall issue a signed certificate of calibration after the annual calibration check that:
       1.   Shall be kept on file; and
       2.   Shall be admitted as evidence in any court proceeding for a violation of this section.
"

A supporter provided StopBigBrotherMD.Org with copies of Baltimore County’s annual calibration certificates.  The certificates show the Make (Manufacturer) of the “G1-ATR” cameras to be “Mesa Engineering”, the same company who issued the certificates, which were signed by Mesa’s VP of Engineering.

StopBigBrotherMD.org wrote to Baltimore County on March 12, asking a number of questions, including among other things what the legal basis for considering the manufacture an ‘independent lab’ is, the credentials for this company to perform such testing, and what type of testing this device was actually subjected to.  We received confirmation that our inquiry was received by Baltimore County police, but after two more business days received no answers to any of those questions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PG County Writes Speed Cameras into Budget

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker (D) has written a net $4.4million in speed camera revenues into the county's FY2012 budget, according to an article in the Examiner

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ulman To Unveil Howard County Speed Camera Plan

Don't worry, you'll soon forget you had due-process rights in the first place
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman(D) has scheduled a press conference in Ellicott City to introduce his proposed plan to use speed cameras in the county.

Before the county can begin using speed cameras, Howard County will need to hold public hearings on the proposed legislation which would then need to be approved by the county council.  The county would need to select camera sites in "school zones", which if the model used in Baltimore City and many PG County towns is followed would include creating vast new school zones never previously designated or marked as such, or perhaps even lowering speed limits.

After that the county would need to select a vendor. Candidates would include ACS State and Local Solutions who run's the programs in Montgomery County, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County and the SHA's program (which we recently showed was using cameras that were not independently certified for accuracy).  Alternately they could choose Optotraffic/Sigma Space Corporation, whose runs the notoriously inaccurate cameras in Forest Heights and Brentwood.  Or the county could try a new player in the state such as photo enforcement company American Traffic Systems, who contributed $1000 to Ulman's campaign in the last election cycle according to the Maryland Campaign finance database.

Speed cameras are now in use in Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, a long list of PG County cities, and on several work zones on major interstate highways. A plan to introduce speed cameras in the next door town of Sykesville (Carroll County) was shot down by voters in a referendum.

Concerned citizens can contact the county council to express their views.  Click THIS LINK to open an email window, or go to the county website for contact information.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Citation Images May Provide Indications of Errors

We previously reported on that certain versions of the Vitronic Poliscan LIDAR speed cameras, contain a recently disclosed problem which can potentially cause them to incorrectly identify which vehicle committed a speeding violation.  Poliscans are used by the SHA’s Maryland SafeZones program, which issue freeway workzone tickets, even though the Poliscan systems did not meet a requirement in state law that they have annual calibration certificates issued by an “independent calibration laboratory”

While the US versions of the systems have apparently never been tested for this possibility, there are circumstances described in the operating manual for the devices which could reveal if these errors are in fact occurring.  Citation review procedures are described on pages 95 through 102 of the manual. The manual lists several conditions which must be met in order for images to be “valid as evidence”. The Poliscan is NOT certified automatically distinguish between multiple vehicles, but rather the citation reviewers are required to verify that the correct vehicle has been selected for the violation. The Poliscan overlays a rectangular template on the citation images which a reviewer is supposed to use to verify the selection
At least one front wheel (in case of front measurement) respectively one rear wheel (in case of rear measurement) and/or the license plate of a vehicle must at least in part be visible within the template. Moreover, the lower edge of the template frame must be beneath the wheels. Otherwise, the photo must be rejected as evidence.